CBS and Paramount Release Some Pretty Terrible ‘Star Trek’ Fan Film Guidelines

With the Axanar lawsuit still continuing, despite claims that it was going away by J.J. Abrams, there’s been an ongoing question about whether or not Paramount and CBS would finally put out fan film guidelines. Trek fan films have been a part of the culture for most of the franchise’s existence, and while other studios have put out fan film guidelines for their properties (namely Lucasfilm’s Star Wars), CBS and Paramount have been reluctant to follow suit. Well, at least they have been until now.

And what they came up with was pretty terrible.

Yesterday, CBS and Paramount announced a set of set of fan film guidelines (which you can read here). These guidelines are at best described as severely restricting, and at worst described as an attack against the franchise’s most die hard fans.

While most of the rules are actually pretty expected (fan film creators can’t use “Star Trek” in the title, fan films can’t be sold for profit), there’s a couple of points that stick out pretty boldly – and the most important one is first on the list:

1. The fan production must be less than 15 minutes for a single self-contained story, or no more than 2 segments, episodes or parts, not to exceed 30 minutes total, with no additional seasons, episodes, parts, sequels or remakes.

This length restriction (and restriction on any continuing stories) effectively kills almost every fan film project currently in production. This is a policy violated by Axanar, Renegades, Star Trek Continues, Star Trek Phase II… or pretty much any other Trek fan film I can think of. This policy kills fan film culture.

But if you think that’s the end of it, I have bad news: it gets worse. A little further down, we get this gem (emphasis mine):

5. The fan production must be a real “fan” production, i.e., creators, actors and all other participants must be amateurs, cannot be compensated for their services, and cannot be currently or previously employed on any Star Trek series, films, production of DVDs or with any of CBS or Paramount Pictures’ licensees.

That’s right – if a Star Trek actor ever feels like engaging with the fans and appearing in a fan production, it’s too bad. When you really break it down it gets even worse, when you consider that means that even someone who appeared as an extra in an episode of Star Trek cannot appear in a fan film.

These rules are, frankly, a garbage overreaction from a studio hostile to its most dedicated fans. There are many things we expected in these rules — like the fundraising restrictions — which are perfectly reasonable for the studios to enforce, but these two specific points are so damaging to the community that CBS and Paramount are effectively killing off the vital lifeblood that has helped keep fandom together in the franchise’s slow years and reinforces it in the strong ones.

This is something that needs to be changed.

Trae Dorn

Trae Dorn has been staffing conventions for over twenty years, and is a co-founder of Wisconsin’s longest running Anime convention No Brand Con. Trae also wrote and drew the now completed webcomic UnCONventional, and produces the podcasts BS-Free Witchcraft, On This Day With Trae, Stormwood & Associates, and The Nerd & Tie Podcast. This leads many to ask when the hell they have time to actually do anything anymore. Trae says they have the time because they “do it all quite poorly.”

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